The Netherlands is known to be a country of domestic production (and export) of cannabis and synthetic drugs and a transit country for cocaine and heroin. Cannabis cultivation occurs mainly indoors, and only a small number of open-air sites have been dismantled and reported. In 2017, almost 4 700 cannabis plantations were dismantled, fewer than in 2016. Domestically cultivated cannabis and synthetic drugs produced in the Netherlands are exported to foreign markets.
The number of synthetic drug production labs reported to be dismantled has increased in recent years, and a similar trend has occurred with regard to storage places and dumping sites for chemicals used in the production of synthetic drugs. While most of the dismantled laboratories were involved in the production of amphetamine and MDMA/ecstasy and/or the conversion of precursors for the production processes, methamphetamine and, most recently, possible new psychoactive substances production activity have also been reported, albeit on a small scale.
In 2017, several production facilities for heroin were dismantled. The production of heroin in the Netherlands is a new phenomenon. The Netherlands is primarily a transit country for both heroin and cocaine. Heroin mainly originates from Afghanistan and is trafficked to the Netherlands via the Balkan route. Cocaine originating in South America is most commonly shipped directly from Central American countries by sea and, to a lesser extent, by air.
In recent years, drug trade over the internet has emerged as a new business model. With the amount of illicit drug trafficking on the darknet increasing, a considerable number of vendors reportedly operate from the Netherlands.
Tackling and counteracting organised crime groups involved in the production and trafficking of ‘established’ illicit drugs is the key priority in the Netherlands. Specialised police units deal with investigative and enforcement activities related to cannabis cultivation and the production of synthetic drugs, as well as with money laundering linked to the illicit drug trade. To address international drug-related crime, the Netherlands has developed close cooperation or joint actions with neighbouring countries.
Data on the purity of the main illicit substances seized are shown in the ‘Key statistics’ section.